Does single parenting affect children?

Developmental Effects of Having a Single Parent

Many of the developmental risks that children of single parents face have to do with their progress in school. Compared to kids from two-parent families, they tend to get lower grades, suffer more absenteeism, and have more problems relating to peers and teachers. Their drop-out rate is higher, and they're less likely to attend college [source: Psychology Today]. Children raised by one parent are also more likely than their peers to exhibit problems like increased aggression and anxiety and to have trouble getting along with their parents [sources:, Parenting 24/7].

These problems can be long-lasting. A report in the Journal of Family Psychology showed that young adults whose parents had divorced still reported distress -- including feelings of loss because of a diminished relationship with one parent -- 10 years after the fact [source: Parenting 24/7]. These painful memories may be a root cause of some developmental issues.

The economic situation of single parents is another one of the main factors that can make families vulnerable. Half of all risks to these children stem from money problems, researchers have found [source: Miller]. The relation between strained finances and children doing poorly in school can be direct, as with a child who feels obligated to drop out of school to help make ends meet. Or, the impact can be indirect: A single parent working two jobs may simply have less time to help with homework and have less control over his or her kids.

There are a few ways in which a single parent can minimize developmental problems:

  • Be consistent. Children do better if they have a regular routine. Established meal times and bed times are important. Discipline should be fair and consistent.
  • Budget wisely and keep finances under control. Set spending priorities that take children's needs (not wants) into account.
  • Use social supports. One study showed that African-American children in single-parent families do as well in school as those with two parents in the home [source: Lang]. The reason was thought to be a robust network of social supports. Single parents should not hesitate to turn to extended family members, contact other single parents, or consult with a professional counselor for help.

By using some of these strategies, adults may be able to turn single parenthood into a positive experience for both parent and child. To read more about single-parent families, follow the links below

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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